My goal on Wednesday was to get to Kanazawa’s Kata-machi district, where all the restaurants and shops are, on foot and unassisted. The proof of my achievement: a bag of donuts. So off I go down Minami Odori Avenue arriving 20-minutes later at my first landmark: the Saigawa Ohashi Bridge. The bridge crosses the Saigawa River, just southwest of downtown Kanazawa, and leads directly into Kata-machi.
Across the bridge on the right my immediate goal: one of several Mister Donut shops located in the city. I enter the store with trepidation: Japan is intimidating to an American who doesn’t speak nor read the language. I’m greeted with the gentle susurration of certain Japanese words that, after five days, have become familiar: the sibilance of ohayou-gozaimasu (good morning) and sumimasen (excuse me). These words follow wherever I go.
My limited vocabulary of konnichiwa (hello) and domo arigato (thank you) helps complete the purchase. I point through the display window; the attractive young sales person brings out a single donut on a tray. Is this what you want? She seems to say. Hai (yes). Four fingers for four donuts. I point to a box. She pulls one out, demonstrating the box is too big, the donuts would slide around. She packs them in a plastic bag in typical Japanese fashion, very neat with napkins added, sealed with Mister Donut tape, and offers a paper bag with handles to carry them. Perfect for this wet and windy, 100 yen donut-sale day.
Kata-machi is a busy and crowded shopping district. I’ve been here before with friends and am starting to decipher the geography. Down the street, the restaurant where we ate a dinner: an om-rice, omelet made with eggplant, bits of ham, & tomato sauce, served on a bed of buttered rice. We ordered a serving of fried potatoes: tiny ones cut in wedges, served with delicious Japanese mayo & ketchup. A popular place with the English teachers, the manager & staff know them well. A coupon gave everyone a free gelato: green tea, espresso, my scoop of black sesame is delicious.
Nearby is Cote d’Azur where we spent a few hours singing karaoke. I know much has been written of karaoke, the Japanese love of the activity is well-known. I’ll try to post on the topic at a later date. For now, suffice it to say that the hour was late & I was a bit shy around my new friends, but the kids were fantastic, accepting & supportive, fun-loving and free. Songs old & new, in English & Japanese.
Across the street the Starbucks coffee shop. The size of the crowd reflects the store’s popularity, doubly so for English speakers. The signs are in Japanese and English, the products are the same offered worldwide, the staff speak English (grande latte). It’s familiarity makes it a refuge of sorts for those looking for a familiar touch of home. A good place to shelter from the weather. I set aside my bag of donuts while enjoying a latte & slice of pound cake, secretly watching the Japanese businessmen, young people & school kids enjoy theirs.
Donuts & umbrella in hand I start for home, the gusty wind off the river turning my umbrella inside-out, breaking a rib. I keep carefully to the main avenue, never straying down the tempting side streets, passing now familiar landmarks: the bicycle shop, the garden nursery, motorbike shop, Buddhist temple, watching for the intersection where I turn for our apartment.
In the cold rain the passing buses are tempting, but I don’t know where the buses go, afraid one will take me past my destination. After 2 ½ hours I walk past to the Shinto shrine, down the side streets, donut offering in hand.
Welcome to Mister Donut
Miss Mister Donut: In conjunction with its 40th anniversary, Mister Donut brought together 40 lovely ladies from all over Japan to announce their new line-up of donuts for Spring season.